For North Harford's football squad, it feels good to be home


November 25, 2007|By Jeff Seidel | Jeff Seidel,Special To The Sun

The North Harford football team came away from last weekend's state playoffs with a couple of firsts.

The Hawks never had hosted or won a state playoff game in school history. That's why North Harford's 36-13 victory over Atholton in the Class 3A opening round was so sweet for coach Ken Brinkman and his players.

Brinkman had pointed toward getting a home playoff game all season. He started talking about it while standing on the field after River Hill eliminated his visiting Hawks in last year's opening-round playoff game, and pushed it as a team goal throughout this season.

It's why the coach was so delighted when North Harford captured the top seed in the Class 3A East region this season, assuring the team home games in at least the first two rounds.

"To be at home as a coach felt good, and it was a relief," said Brinkman, whose team hosted Wilde Lake on Friday in the regional final. "I think our kids were just a little more relaxed, and being at home calmed their nerves."

The Hawks had been in the playoffs the past two years but lost road games at Severna Park and River Hill. Now, they won't have to answer questions about when they finally will win a playoff game.

"It's a huge relief to get that off, but one of our goals was to get in and win," Brinkman said. "Hopefully, now we'll continue winning."

If the Hawks advance to the next round, it's likely they will be on the road, possibly at Damascus of Montgomery County.

But Brinkman certainly enjoyed having two home games.

"To be at home as a coach felt good, and it was a relief," Brinkman said.

Bobcats savor run

The Bel Air boys soccer team had more than a few bad breaks this season, something that made the Bobcats' run to a state title game even more remarkable.

Bel Air lost four players with broken bones and three others with severe injuries that drained the team's depth and caused the Bobcats to stumble to a 3-3-1 start. But the injuries slowly healed, and Bel Air won 11 straight en route to last weekend's Class 3A state final, in which Bethesda-Chevy Chase handed the Bobcats a 1-0 overtime loss.

Coach Dominic Rose said he never has seen a stretch of injuries like the Bobcats suffered this season.

Two players suffered broken feet, another fractured his leg, one broke an ankle, another suffered a collapsed lung and one severely sprained his ankle.

Also, before the season started, senior goalie Steve Meredith tore two knee ligaments in a club soccer game and missed the season. The injuries left Rose shaking his head in bewilderment.

"I have never seen or heard of it ever," said Rose, Bel Air's head coach for eight years. "It was crazy. It was literally in every game that we'd come back with another broken bone."

At one point in an early season game with Aberdeen, Rose had just two forwards left. One proceeded to break his foot while the other sprained his ankle, forcing Rose to move halfbacks up to forward.

"We piecemealed it at that point," Rose said.

The Bobcats got an unusual scheduling break when the regular season ended in mid-October. Bel Air had to play every game on the road because of school renovations. That left the Bobcats with a three-week break between the regular season and the playoffs.

"That let everybody except one player heal," Rose said.

Five of the six injured players returned for postseason play, with the final Bobcat almost ready to go by the state final. Everything turned around for Bel Air in the playoffs.

Bel Air tied with Aberdeen and Fallston for the top spot in the Class 3A East region. A three-way coin flip gave the Bobcats the No. 2 seed, and Bel Air won three games by penalty kicks to make the state final.

Colin Mayo led Bel Air with five goals and seven assists, while Brendan Payne helped with six goals. Eric Stewart-Craig stepped in to start at goalie and was solid all season.

No, thanks

C. Milton Wright cross country coach Donnie Mickey confirmed last week that his team turned down an invitation to a regional race that's part of the Nike Team Nationals.

The people from Nike invited C.M. Wright's girls to the Southeast Regional meet, which was set for this weekend in Hoover, Ala. That would have required either a very long van ride or an expensive plane trip for the coach and his runners.

Mickey wasn't thrilled about asking his team to do either - especially over Thanksgiving weekend with a trip to the subsequent big race in Oregon not guaranteed. He talked to the girls, who beat Eleanor Roosevelt by one point to capture the Class 4A state crown, and they all decided it was better to say no.

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